He's simply not popular the way Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is. He's also not popular the way Jeff Gordon is. There are legions of NASCAR followers who actually like Gordon.
Practically everyone on the planet despises Busch, to the point that I'm curious if anyone would even dare wear anything with the M&Ms logo to a race.
As universally-booed as Busch is, there is no denying three fundamental facts about the young man:
1. He enjoys the notoriety. There's no such thing as bad publicity, and Busch knows the attention he's gotten this season is good for his career, as well as the sponsors whose logos adorn his race cars and firesuits.
He plays the villain role well, akin to classic "bad guy" pro wrestlers like Ted DiBiase and Ric Flair. Like those WWE/WCW legends, Busch isn't afraid of getting booed. In fact, he seems to get a kick out of it.
2. He's a damn good race car driver. Probably the best in the world right now. Busch drives trucks well. He drives Nationwide cars well. And he is the Sprint Cup points leader. Oh, and he's barely old enough to legally drink.
Not only is he really, really good, but he's also got the prime of his career about ten years away. Isn't that scary?
3. He loves to drive. Yes, there is some ego involved. All these guys have egos. However, for Busch to take on the schedule he had this past weekend, he must love to drive. For once, I believe a competitor when they say something like this:
"I just like to race, that's what it's all about," Busch said. "I don't need to test myself. I don't have anything to prove. I'm just out there trying to race races and win races."He's right on all counts in terms of what he has to prove. He's won in every major NASCAR national series, and he's done it driving for different race teams. For all his faults, he shows tremendous passion for his craft.
Evidently, however, this isn't enough for some NASCAR media mainstays. Terry Blount writes that Busch shouldn't have been allowed to attempt the three-races-in-three-different-cities stunt this past weekend.
The blame lies with the men calling the shots at Joe Gibbs Racing, Joe and J.D. Gibbs. They shouldn't have allowed Busch to do it. Too much is at stake on the Cup side.I can't agree. The dude's a racer. He's a really good one. Why shouldn't he push himself and try to get better?
Everything about the trifecta weekend had a downside. Busch finished an impressive second in the truck race at Texas after starting in the back but later whined about how bad the truck was.
One of the topics brought up during ESPN2's coverage of Saturday's Nationwide series race was how other drivers wished they could do what Busch did. Carl Edwards was one of the names mentioned. I'm sure Jack Roush was thrilled.
Not only that, but Blount forgot about the racing many drivers, including Busch, took part in on Wednesday, when Tony Stewart hosted his annual Prelude to a Dream event at Eldora. Maybe everyone should back out of that event, too. After all, you wouldn't want their focus to strain from Cup racing for more than ten seconds.